Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Process versus Substance

The emphasis and magnified focus upon process-issues as opposed to the underlying substance of an endeavor is often misplaced; yet, the problem is, if one ignores the former, the latter may never reach fruition because it may never arrive at its intended destination.  The question of balance between the two is an important one; for, the greatest of ideas may have historically vanished not because the idea itself was one lacking in value, but rather because it never received the sales pitch which effectively presented itself into the stream of commerce.

Similarly, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while it is important to understand the administrative process of the “nuts and bolts” of filing (i.e., who does it go to; which form is completed by whom; how long does it take at point X; what happens after destination Y, etc.), it is preliminarily of relevance to get the substance of the application in order (i.e., the proper medical report with all of the essential elements in place; one’s statement of disability which addresses the issues of concern to OPM; any legal arguments and invocation of precedent-setting arguments, etc.).

Process gets us there; substance is the “that” which gets there.  If there is no “that”, it will be no use for the “there”; and, conversely, if it never gets there, it will not make a difference.  Ultimately, however, while both are of importance, it is the substance of the case which makes the difference, and the focus should be upon that substance before one’s attention is placed upon the vehicle of delivery.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Substance versus Process

In every endeavor, there is the substance of activity, as distinguishable from the process which surrounds the activity (which is further differentiated by the issue of appearance versus substance).  The former encapsulates the essence of what the activity involves; the latter is characterized by the entirety of preparation, formulation and engagement in participating in the activity.

Thus, as there is the “actual activity” of the sport which one engages in; there is also the “process” part of it, such as paying a participant’s fee, negotiating a contract, submitting proper forms in a timely manner, etc.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is unfortunately both aspects which the Federal or Postal worker must contend with.

There is the substantive activity of preparing the application itself, with all of its attendant responsibilities of obtaining the proper medical documentation, preparing one’s statement of disability (SF 3112A); completing the Application for Immediate Retirement (SF 3107 & Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 & Schedules A, B & C for CSRS employees), as well as a multitude of other such substantive issues to be addressed.

Then, there is the “process” activity, of the long wait while the Federal Disability Retirement application winds its way through the bureaucratic maze, first through the agency, then the finance office, then to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of it; then, forwarding it to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, inasmuch as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is something which is voluntarily engaged, it is seen as a necessary evil to be subjected to both the substantive, as well as the procedural (or “process” aspect) portions of the administrative filing.  In many ways, substance and process cannot be separated or identifiably bifurcated; they come together as inseparable twins, and must be dealt with as such.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire